Archive for January, 2013

An Interview with Colleen Smart: Part 4

Posted: January 27, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

I was able to really hit my groove today, and got done earlier than I’d planned! Here is the fourth and final part of our interview with the lovely Colleen Smart. Show her some love in the comments guys, she needs it!

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Territa resumes her post, and Colleen settles back into her seat after a short celebration. She wraps a hand around her mug again, eyeing me carefully.

“Okay Colleen, we just have one last set of questions. There’s one more difficult one, but the rest are pretty easy. These are from Elizabeth Dresdow, who is much kinder to her characters than most writers. In fact, I think you two would get along quite well. First, she would like to know if you’ve ever thought you could be part of a story?” I suppress a laugh, and Colleen quirks an eyebrow.

“Well, I guess I’ve always known I was part of one. But really, I think everyone is part of a story. Even you, Hannah. We’re all sitting at the tip of someone’s pen. For you writers and the people in your world, that pen might belong to a much mightier creator. But you live your own story, just as I live mine. And none of us knows what will happen in the end.” I smile at her answer, nodding my agreement.

“Very true. And in the end, my characters are here to please my Author, not me. Now, Colleen, this next one is her hardest one. Take your time if you wish. Why did you like Judas?” I wince, and she blows a puff of air slowly through her teeth. Her eyes close, and her body tenses at the memories.

“Well… I didn’t at first. But once I got to know him… know his story… He was so strong. And he genuinely cared for me, for my brother. In a way we hadn’t felt since my family was together. And he was truly sorry for what he did to my father. He’d had no real choice in the matter. But that’s a book closed and shelved long ago. He’s gone, and I miss him. But I’ve had to move on.” She stares at the floor, the inward battle to fight back an onslaught of unpleasant memories casting shadows over her face.

“You can relax now, Colleen. I’m sorry to have put you through all of that. The rest are much easier. Do you like bacon?” She looks at me, confusion in her eyes and laughter in her smile at the strange question.

“Bacon? Well… I mean, I guess. I don’t exactly get much chance to eat it, but I have had it before and it was good. It seems wasteful though… there’s very little nutrition to be had from it, and it cooks down to nearly nothing.” Such a sad truth that is.

“What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” I ask, and an impish glint leaps to her eyes. A smirk slowly overtakes her face, and I’m not sure I want to know what’s going through her mind as she stares at me intently.

“I’d have to say double dark chocolate.” She replies evenly, watching me closely. I gasp, eyeing her up and down.

“How did you know about that? Who’s been talking?” I cry, stunned that she could know such a story about her author.

“Hannah, we character have our ways. You know this. But I will say, Kaufman’s description of your soul as compared with ice cream was spot on. And a certain ginger German agreed.” She laughs heartily, but I can’t bring myself to do anything but stare at her.

“You have more questions, yes?” She urges, snapping me out of my shock. I shake my head, and she laughs again. That was just… weird.

“Okay, last question. Elizabeth wants to know if you sleep – ”

A loud chirp vibrates from my pocket, shattering the relative silence of the house. Colleen jumps, staring at me with wide eyes. I wrestle my phone from my pocket, trying to silence the now incessant chirping and vibrating that streams from the phone. What on earth? Who in the world… I finally flick the silence button, and it trembles in my hand as though experiencing its own violent earthquake.

“What is that?” Colleen begs, hesitantly pulling her hands from her ears.

“It’s my phone… I don’t know what this is all about!” The buzzing finally slows enough for me to enter my password into the lock screen, and I’m assaulted by a long list of texts from Michelle. More questions? Michelle! Before I can read more than the first two or three, an incoming call interrupts me.

“Michelle! What is going on? What are you doing?” Colleen stares at me, clearly convinced I’ve lost my mind.

“Sorry Hannah! Vosh got my phone. He had a bunch of questions for Colleen, too. He’s threatened to take me out to lunch if I don’t make you ask them.” I can hear the Jabber-Jaws’ lips running in the background, and before I can reply, there’s a click and the line goes dead. I run a weary hand down my face, and cast a sorrowful glance at Colleen.

“What? What’s going on?” She finally bursts out, eyes wide, body tense with uncertainty.

“Colleen… that was Michelle. Or, more accurately, Vosh. They… have more questions for you.” She glares at me, and I feel like I’m withering beneath the heat of it.

“Vosh? Vosh? That incessant Jabber-Jaws and his constantly flapping lips are in for a world of hurt!” She fumes, slamming herself back into the chair with a gloomy, dark shade to her face.

“Oh, believe me, I know. Did you hear about him and poor Lucian? He kidnapped the poor boy, lugged him around all day as a captive audience!” She gasps, wincing at the thought of my poor mute knight, stuck with Vosh and his endless words.

“Oh, the poor thing! Is he alright?” She whispers, hand held over her mouth.

“To be honest, I believe he’s a bit traumatized. He’s been sitting in the corner ever since, with his hands over his ears. Poor dear.” I frown, the all-to-familiar urge to hug him filling my limbs.

“Well, lets finish Elizabeth’s question, and then we’ll set in on Vosh’s. Do you sleep on your side, stomach, or back?” I massage my temples, exhausted from the events of the day.

“I don’t really have a set routine. I sleep however it’s most comfortable at the time. I suppose I prefer my sides… but it really depends on where I’m sleeping, and if I’m sore from training or mission work.” She responds, letting out a deep sigh.

“Let’s get this over with. Most of them actually aren’t awful, but the ones that are, are pretty bad. Where is your favorite place to hide?” She narrows her eyes into slits, leaning forward uncomfortably.

“Why does Vosh want to know? What would he be doing with this information? Tracking me down so he can talk my ears off? Has he run out of victims already?” She hisses, and I scoot back in my seat. She groans again before answering. “There’s this old weeping willow tree up on the mountain, in the middle of the forest. I’ve always loved hiding up in the uppermost branches, where the vines provide cover from the elements and searching eyes.” I picture the place, smiling at the image of her perched like a canary amongst the leaves.

“That sounds lovely, Colleen. Perhaps someday I’ll get to see it – but then again, every character needs their secrets. Anyways, Vosh also wants to know where your favorite place to run is.” My speech is jumbled by my tired mind, and I can sense Colleen’s exhaustion. This interview has taken the fire out of both of us.

“The woods. At night. Especially through the pines, with the soft bed of needles underfoot. Between the scent, and the chill of the air, it’s about the most refreshing thing on this earth.” She whispers, tired of fighting. She looks out the window longingly, and for a moment she bears the semblance of a songbird in a cage.

“We’re almost done, Colleen. Just hang in there a little longer. Are you right or left handed?” She refocuses her attention on me, and I glance down at her right hand hanging in the sling.

“I’m ambidextrous. My dad made me use both hands when I was younger, because he thought it was an important skill… especially when you’re forced to revert to pick pocketing. It’s definitely come in handy… especially in hand-to-hand combat. No puns intended.” I laugh softly, and she smiles. Her eyes hold a faraway look to them, everything about her seeming to be focused somewhere else. I’m losing her fast.

“Four questions left. Unfortunately, they’re the worst of Valentine’s. But then you’re home free. Have you ever… let someone die, when you had the chance to help them?” I whisper it, wishing I could wipe the words away. I wish I could tell her. I wish I could tell her everything. There’s so much good that could come from her knowing! What would be the harm? I shake my head sadly, knowing it’s out of the question. The golden rule… an author’s curse. Tears slowly fill her eyes, and she curls into herself. I leave her alone to gather herself, sitting silently beside her, fighting back the regrets that fill me, leave me hollow. When she speaks, her voice is muffled and full of pain and regret, ripping at what’s left of my tattered heart.

“Once. I left him there… I betrayed him. I tried to tell them… but it was too late. It’s all my fault. I could have warned him, told him to run instead of turning him in secretly.” A sob cuts her off, and I carefully move towards her, wrapping her in a hug once more. Every sniffle, every tear, sends a pang through my heart. If only she knew… if only I could tell her. I wait for her to calm before asking the next one, not trusting myself to open my mouth.

“We’re so close Colleen. And then you’ll never have to go through this again. I promise. Vosh is a little devil, and I’m going to have a talk with Michelle about this. But we’re almost done.” She nods, and I take in a long breath before continuing. “Were you and your parents on good terms when they passed?” She looks up at me now, grief heavy in her eyes as she rests her chin on her knees.

“Thankfully, yes. I was blessed to be close to both of them. That’s the one thing I can be grateful for… I’ve been close to the family I’ve lost. It’s a strange thing to be grateful for, I know… but I can’t help thinking that it’s better to be close to someone and lose them once, than to become estranged from them and lose them twice – in life and in death.” I’d never thought about it that way.

“That’s a very good point. I’d… I’d ever quite pictured it like that. We’ve just got two more, Colleen. Are you a double agent?” I curse Vosh inwardly, willing Colleen to be careful. She wrinkles her nose, her brows knitting together, and I can only imagine what horrors she’s planning for Vosh in her head.

“I think it’s hard to be a double agent when you have no allegiance to either side.” She says simply, taking care in picking her words. I applaud her inwardly, proud to have such a smart and eloquently spoken character.

“Last question. For real this time. If you had to choose between winning the war an keeping your brother alive, what would you do?” I close my eyes, squeezing her shoulders supportively. She growls, grumbling about Jabber-Jaws under her breath.

“You tell little mister St. Valentine that he’d better have that fire-breathing girlfriend of his watching his back. He thinks he’s seen a dragon? Oh, I’ll show him a dragon.” She hisses before slumping her shoulders again. “But in answer to the question, I would do anything to keep my brother alive. I have no allegiance to anyone but him. I could care less how the war ends, if it ends at all. We take care of ourselves, take care of each other. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how it should be. I don’t care if it sounds selfish… I do what I have to.” She sniffles, and I help her to her feet. I snap my notebook shut, letting out a sigh of relief.

“Thank you for doing this, Colleen. I know it was painful, and we all appreciate you pushing through it.” I hug her, carefully avoiding her hand, and wonder of wonders, she hugs me back.

An Interview with Colleen Smart: Part 3

Posted: January 27, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

Just one part left! I hope to have it done tonight.

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“Colleen? Colleen!” I yell deeper into the woods from my perch in the tree tops. Where could she possibly have gone? I hop down carefully, and walk forward with a sigh. I pry burrs from my hair with flustered fingers, coated head to toe in mud from clawing through the brush. I know she’s in here somewhere. She has to be. She’d never run away from the woods. They’re where she’s most at home! I stumble through another mess of burrs and brambles, scratching my arms and putting a small rip in the leg of my pants before stepping into a small clearing. A large boulder juts up in the center standing stoic and regal, the sun gently falling through the leaves to dapple the grass and stone.

I pant from the exertion of pressing through the dense forest, and slowly make my way to the rock. This must be where Gale and Katniss would hunt from. It’s exactly like Collins described! So quiet and peaceful… I finger the cold strength gently, as though caressing it will coax it into spilling her whereabouts. The rocks may open their mouths to praise our Lord, but they’ll never speak to me. I sigh, turning back towards the woods, when a twig snaps. I spin towards the sound and find Colleen slowly inching towards me, a cut on her cheek and trails from her tears still shining softly.

My breath catches in my throat, and we stand for a moment, watching each other. Her shoulders are slumped, eyes sad, and everything about her is subdued and submissive. Every hint of fire seems to have left her, and her crystal eyes hold a grey, watery tint. I didn’t think it was possible. They broke her. We broke her. I broke her.

“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.” My words break the silence, falling flat like blotched ink on a lifeless page.

“I’m sorry.” Her voice is hoarse and soft, her eyes shift to the ground. She looks so weak. So small. Like a puppy that’s been kicked one too many times. She cautiously steps up onto the boulder, sitting down cross-legged and looking at me expectantly.

“No, Colleen, we don’t have to fini-”

“Yes, we do. It’s okay, Hannah. It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I did it to him, not you. I need to own up to it. The truth is… I didn’t at first. How could I, after what he’d done? But Mason deserved better. He needed protection, he needed a real home. That winter was coming fast and cold. Judas had a home… a real home. How could I have said no? I never knew what would become of it. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I did love him. But family had to come first. Mason was suspected. It was him or Judas. I did what I had to do… but I’ve regretted it ever since.” Another tear falls from her cheek, and I risk leaning in to give her a hug. Instead of pulling away like I thought she would, she leans in to me, returning it hesitantly. I smile a melancholy smile, a tear slipping loose.

“Let’s head back, okay? It’s cold out here, and Territa’s waiting for us. We’ll go inside, get some hot cocoa, and clean up your face. Then we’ll finish up. Okay?” She nods, slowly pulling back from me. I give her a smile, and her lips wobble as she does her best to return it. We make good time headed back, and quickly reach the Victor’s Village once more.

“What is this place, anyways? What happened here?” Colleen pipes up softly before we step inside.

“Oh… this is another author’s world. She’s far more well-known than I am. It’s called District 12. The people here revolted against their government too. But their government was far more advanced than yours… and they didn’t like it. They burnt this place to the ground, a lot of the people went down with it. But not all of them. Don’t worry though… I’ve read the end. It all came out okay.” I smile, and she nods slowly before stepping inside.

Territa stands just inside the door, eyeing us condescendingly. We must look like we just stepped out of one of those lame horror movies where the helpless victims go running through the woods before they trip over a tree root and get caught by the crazy lumberjack with a battleaxe. I have her make some hot chocolate while I patch up Colleen’s face, and Colleen insists on doing the same for mine. When we’ve dug most of the burrs from our hair and skin, and cleaned out the worst of the cuts, she settles back into her seat. I flip open my notebook again, sighing deeply before I begin.

“Okay Colleen. I’m sorry to say this, but the next question… it’s from Bradburn.” Her hand freezes in the midst of lifting her mug of cocoa to her lips, and her eyes squeeze shut. I can hear her teeth grating from here.

“It’s not too bad. Nothing like the others. She just wants to know if your mind-games are a way to get attention?”

“I’d never intentionally draw attention to myself. I’d much rather fly under the radar, and be left well enough alone by everyone but Mason. I don’t know what Emily Kaufman was referring to when she mentioned it, but I suppose she was right in a way. I don’t intentionally play them, unless it’s to prank Mason. But in the strictest of terms, I’ll admit to having used them to gain the necessities of life… I prefer to outsmart the men in the market, rather than steal from them, and when I first met Judas, all I saw was his house. But I only revert to them when I have to.” A bit of her spunk returns, her voice bitter when she speaks of either Emily.

“Okay, back to Kaufman. What do you do when you aren’t glaring at everyone and being pouty? You know, Colleen, I don’t think Emily really gets you.” Her eyelids lower to half mast, and she rolls her eyes.

“I do believe you’re right, Hannah. We’ve already talked of hobbies. And I don’t sit around glaring at people all day like a sparkly vampire. That’s creepy. But when I have a beef with someone, I prefer to bite my tongue and avoid them. Confrontation is foolish. Especially when those you’re mad at outrank you, and could easily outdo you in any sort of physical scrapple.” She quips, and I can’t help but chuckle. Her face softens, and she joins in with a soft giggle.

“Alright, Colleen. Since you haven’t at least hinted at this one enough. Do you like to work solo, or do you secretly crave a companion?” This one should be easier. She snorts, her drink nearly coming out her nose and making her cough.

“The only companion I crave is my brother. I can put up with Jimmy, and I’ve even admitted to enjoying Judas’s company at one point. But crave company? No. I’d rather be alone. Especially when I’m working.” She takes another sip of her cup, and from the cautious look in her eyes when our gaze meets, I know she’s worried that these have been too easy.

“Hey, Hannah?” Colleen interrupts suddenly, before I can release the next question.

“Yes?” My eyebrows rise, and suspicion crops up in my chest.

“Is Kaufman… you know… short?” I narrow my eyes at her, suspecting the worst.

“Yes… actually, she is.”

“And does she have brown hair? Like, a light brown?” She presses.

“You could say that, I guess.” I reply cautiously.

“I knew it! She’s a chipmunk! Right? A strange, cursed, cynical little chipmunk that learned how to talk. It would explain it all! Her insensitivity, her bluntness… That’s gotta be it!” Her eyes sparkle, and I’m unable to hold back my laughter. The pen falls from my hand in my surprise, and it takes me a while to catch my breath.

“Well, I wish I could say you’re wrong… but that’s actually a fairly perfect description of her personality.” Her laughter floats, and her body seems to come alive with it, brightening until she looks almost like her old self again.

“Okay, okay. Ms. Cynical Chipmunk has three more questions. First off, and I quote, ‘why are you so flipping neurotic?’” Colleen rolls her eyes again, setting the mug down and readjusting her sling.

“I’m going to speak directly here for a moment. Emily, I’m not neurotic. But even if I was, you should know more than anyone that I have good reason to be after everything I’ve been through. You’ve read more of my story than anyone. So I have trust issues. I don’t like being around people because I’m afraid of getting attached and betrayed, or worse yet having to betray them myself. I’m afraid of watching everything go down in flames again, and you know precisely what I mean.” The spark leaps back to her eyes, the spunk returning to her voice, the spring of life lifting her shoulders once more. She’s so strong. Her flame… it never can fizzle out entirely. I hope it never does.

“She’ll understand eventually, Colleen. For now, take comfort in that this is the second to last of her questions. It’s a doosy. If you were locked in a room with Selene, who would make it out? Or would you simultaneously destroy each other?” I cringe at the mental image, and Colleen’s eyes flare. Why do I get the feeling that –

“Oh in heaven’s name not her. That crazy creature tried to kill me for giving her a peppermint! It’s a good thing I’m good with knives. And fast. In answer to the question, I’d never let myself be locked in a room with her. And I might just have to do away with anyone foolish enough to attempt it. If they somehow managed to get us inside, I don’t even know what would happen. Really, survival would be 50/50 chance. You could flip a coin to decide who’d make it out. I’d certainly put up a good fight though.” She winces when her arm impulsively flexes, setting her broken hand to throbbing again.

“That’s a day I doubt will ever come, Colleen. I could never be that heartless. Now, Bradburn has one more question to interject here. Besides your brother, is there anyone in the world you like?” I keep a straight face, unable to decide if I should laugh or wince.

“It’s not that I hate everyone, I just don’t like being around people. I don’t like getting close to people. I’ve been fairly distant since I lost my family. But, I’ll admit, Jimmy’s growing on me. And there was another, but… he’s gone.” She speaks cautiously, and I smile encouragingly.

“Okay, Colleen. Are you ready for this? You realize what this is, don’t you?” I tease, winking at her. She nods excitedly, playing it up. “The very last Emily question: Why do you hate everything?” I smirk, and Colleen facepalms.

“Really? Really Kaufman? As if I hadn’t made it clear enough yet, I don’t hate everything. I don’t particularly enjoy human company, nor do I wish to build relationships. I don’t have much to live for anymore, but I’m managing – no thanks to all of you drudging up painful memories. And I by no means hate everything.” She sighs, running a flustered hand through her hair, when it suddenly freezes. A smile slowly creeps its way up her face, brightening her eyes and giving her an overall brilliant appearance.

“They’re done! Gone! I’m free! Free from the soul crusher and cynical chipmunk forever!” She throws her hand up in the air in a celebratory fashion, glee taking over every feature of her body. I laugh, high fiving her, and watch in amazement when Territa strides over, smile on her face, laughter in her eyes, and gives her a high-five as well. There might be hope for her yet!

An Interview with Colleen Smart: Part 2

Posted: January 24, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

At long last, part two is complete! I am still working on the rest, as another group of questions came in shortly before her disappearance. Enjoy!

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My heart throbs at her painful accusation, aching from the truth of it. I wish I could have stopped it. I wish I had the control over this story that would have saved her from this. I hate myself for letting it happen. I could have erased it. It was in my power! But I did nothing. I broke her. It’s all my fault. Mr. Mullen stands, patting her gently on the shoulder. She gives him a teary smile, and I stand to thank him.

“Thank you for your help, Mr. Mullen. I’m sorry for dragging you all the way out here.” I shake his hand warmly, and he nods.

“The least I could do. But, girls, let’s not allow things to get so out of hand in the future, eh?” He asks with a wink before whisking out the door.

“You’d think he was scared to stay here any longer.” Territa snorts. I attempt to contain my laughter, until one sound catches me entirely by surprise. Colleen’s musical giggle envelopes the room, lasting only a moment, but lifting my spirits sky high.

“I suppose a room full of controlling females was too much for him.” She sputters, and we all join in the laughter. Such a refreshing sound. Colleen’s hand is wrapped tightly and splinted, hanging from a cloth sling to keep her from using it. I wait for the laughter to die out, and sit in the silence a while, playing with my thumbs. I don’t want to start up again… I don’t want to cause her more pain.

“Hannah? You okay?” Colleen asks, to my surprise.

“Hm? Oh, yeah… I’m fine. I was just thinking. You know… Colleen… maybe we should stop. Finish up another time. You’ve been through so much already, and…” I stop at the stunned look on her face.

“Hannah, I’m touched that you would disappoint your readers for the sake of my feelings, but you know as well as I do that we can’t stop now. Let’s just get it over with. I know now what kinds of questions your friends expect me to answer. I didn’t when I came here. I wasn’t ready for it. And I know you hate it. Let’s just get it over with, so we can both go home and move on.” Her voice is earnest, her face open. I nod slowly, and reach for my notepad again. She closes her eyes a moment, taking in a deep breath, then nods. Here goes nothing.

“Okay, the next few questions come from Amanda Bradburn. She’s Emily’s cousin… and went somewhat easier on you this time. If you were to be trapped on an island with Valentine, Theloq, and Eristor, who would you be most likely to team up with, and who would go down first?”

“More islands? Really? What is it with these Bradburns and their deserted island questions?” She spouts, already frustrated. I shrug my shoulders, and she growls.

“Well. Most likely, I’d scale up a tree and wait. There’s not a doubt in my mind Eristor and Vosh would take care of each other rather quickly, and I wouldn’t want to be near either of them when it went down. Mostly, I’d just let them gradually destroy each other, and team up with whoever was left to try and get away.” I nod and write it down, smiling gratefully for a gentler question.

“Sounds like a good plan. One thing’s for sure… Jabber-Jaws would have to go.” I wink, and she laughs. “Now, Colleen, you kind of just answered this question, but how do you feel about heights?”

“I prefer highs to lows, if that’s what you mean. When I was really little, my dad used to call me his little canary, because I loved climbing up to the highest branches of any trees I could find and just perching there. I always wished that the wind would pick me up and carry away, that my black hair would turn into a raven’s wings and take me with it. But my dad always said my voice was too much like a songbird’s for me to be a raven.” She smiles softly, and my eyes dance a bit. Thank you, Amanda! You’ve restored my faith in the humanity of writers.

“He was right, Colleen. Now… Coconuts. What are your thoughts on them?” Her eyes bulge a bit, and laughter seizes her with a vengeance. I try to keep a straight face, but when I catch the puzzled look on Territa’s face, I can’t help but let it out. We laugh until tears run from our eyes, not because it’s so funny, but just for the sake of laughter itself.

“Well, I’ve never actually had coconut, but Jude once told me it tasted like the polar opposite to my bitter personality. The way he explained it, I thought it would be quite tasty.” Territa chuckles behind us, a soft, reserved sound. I smile half-heartedly, unable to laugh when Jude is part of the equation.

“Okay, what about macaroons? Love them, hate them, have any idea what I’m talking about?” I ask, happy with this strand of questions.

“I’ve only had them once… at Ginger’s. Mason loved them, but something about the texture just…. Euhhhh.” She shudders, trying to lighten the mood of her emotion-laden answer. Gosh, I just can’t win here. Everything is painful.

“Well… I agree with you there. I’ve never been a big fan myself. Now, would you survive a gladiator duel in the Coliseum?” I voice the question quickly, so as not to dwell on the mention of harder times.

“That depends. Am I watching the duel, or one of the competitors? I’m certain I could watch one, though I wouldn’t enjoy it. As for competing, I suppose it would depend on who my competitor was, and what kind of weapon I had. Assuming I could use a knife, and had the room to outmaneuver them, I would have a chance. But there are a lot of questionable variables in that kind of circumstance. I would never choose to be in that situation.” She answers carefully.

“I guess Amanda did leave a lot of holes in that question. But her last is fairly straightforward. Do you like camping?” I laugh softly, but she takes on a sarcastic air.

“Well, that’s like asking a fish if it likes its pond. Going by the traditional definition, I’ve hardly done anything but camping. Life has never been easy for the Smart family, and housing has never been something we’ve landed easily.” She snorts, her eyes flickering once more. And she’s back. Great. Just in time for Emily’s questions. I groan, and she narrows her eyes at me.

“What?” She snaps.

“Well… the next couple questions are from the other Emily. Emily Kaufman. And… she’s been reading Fractured. She has a very sick sense of humor, and… let’s just say she doesn’t have much of a sensitive side. She asked some… less than pleasant questions.” I wince, and she glares at me.

“They couldn’t possibly be worse than Emily Bradburn’s.” She states flatly, fingering her pants nervously.

“Well…” I drag out the word, a grimace taking hold of my face. She makes a strange, guttural sound, somewhere between a groan and a shriek, and slams back in the chair irritably. Oh boy. Emily better run.

“Okay, the first few are somewhat easy. What is your favorite season?” Thank the Lord, she started gently. Colleen relaxes a bit, her forehead smoothing out.

“Fall. Well… not exactly fall, but that week that’s kind of between summer and fall. When you can sense fall coming on the soft, cool breeze, and the birds and little creatures become bolder as they begin the long endeavor of preparing for winter. When the poor side of town looks a bit more lively, the people made brave by the coming harshness of winter. The children are suddenly filled with a strange, eager energy, and everything seems to be leaning forward on the tips of its toes, just waiting for the tension to break. It’s an ominous liveliness, but one that seems to make everyone a little braver, rather than striking fear into their hearts. And the rain… the beautiful rain that comes with it. I love it.” She smiles softly, her eyes taking the appearance of a soft, warm campfire.

“I love that time too. It’s so invigorating; I could just drink it up. Now, Colleen, do you have a favorite novel?” I ask, hoping this wont lead where I think it will. I just want her to be happy for a few questions. Is that too much to ask?

“Well, as a poor girl from a family with nothing, I never had much of a chance to read. I didn’t even learn how until…” Her voice cracks, and I wince. “Until he taught me. I don’t really have a favorite… but I do love reading. Poetry is… was my favorite.” She stares ahead of her blankly, picturing the old days, before things went so wrong for her. I’m sorry, Colleen. I glance down at the list of questions, and my chest tightens at the next one. Best to get it over with now… putting it off will only prolong her suffering.

“Colleen…  I’m sorry, but her next one branches off of this one. And it’s… it’s probably the worst of Emily’s.” I whisper, gently breaking her train of thought. She looks up at me, her glazed eyes slowly thawing as she returns to reality. Her face clouds over, the crease returning to her brow.

“Emily wants to know… Did… did you actually love him, or was it just a mind game?” Her eyes become suddenly glossy, narrowing into hate-filled slits. Her jaw flops open, then snaps shut, teeth grinding as every inch of her seems to clamp shut in rage. Territa braces herself in the corner, snapping to attention as Colleen flies out of her seat. I flinch back, expecting to feel her bony knees against my spleen again, but instead she makes a break for the door. Territa lunges for it, but Colleen’s too quick, and slips out like a snake through the grass.

“Colleen!” I shout, jumping after her. Territa backs away from the door to let me past, staring after her as though in shock. Yes Territa, some people are fast enough to outmaneuver you. I grumble to myself. Outside, I find nothing but eerie silence. The ashes float in the air, tumbling over each other, but give no clues as to where she’s gone. Gone. Where could she go? 

An Interview with Colleen Smart: Part 1

Posted: January 17, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. An interview with Colleen Smart! You sent in the questions and location, and here I am proud to post the first half. I will be working towards completing the rest this weekend. Enjoy!

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Wow… this is a lot creepier than I suspected it would be. Clouds of ash fly up around me, forming an eerie, dark kind of snowfall. I hasten my steps down the path, my eyes firmly locked on the Victors Village. Emily had better appreciate this. The neat white houses form a stark contrast to the flat, sullen landscape, and I quickly step inside the first one. A fire burns in the hearth, warming the house and taking a bit of the tension from the air. This must be the place.

I shut the door softly, eyes filled with wonder at the place of another author’s invention. This is weird. It feels like I’m trespassing on her conscience. I quickly turn away from the door, and a squeak escapes my lips as I fall back against it in shock.

“Oh! Territa, it’s just you. You scared the living daylights out of me! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” She raises an eyebrow, expression stoic and unimpressed.

“Why did you bring me here again?” She asks, her voice somehow monotone, bored, and threatening all at once as she leans towards me aggressively.

“Just to help guard me in an interview, Territa.” I reply evenly. This might not have been a great idea.

“No questions, right?” Her eyes flash, and I nod quickly. She looms over me menacingly, quite the fete for someone her size. She’s not exactly short, but she’s certainly not tall or imposing on her own. Impressive. I peel myself off the doorframe, quickly pulling myself together and brushing past her as nonchalantly as possible.

“So who’s the unlucky victim, then?” She swivels on her metal leg, following me with sharp eyes that bore holes into the back of my head. I settle onto the couch beside the fireplace before answering, resting my notepad of questions and my pen on the table.

“Colleen. She’s not from your story, so you wouldn’t know her. She’s as much of a sparkplug as you, which is why I’ve asked you to meet me here. Her fans have asked quite a few… difficult questions, as they did with my antagonist from her story. But he was the antagonist. I had a good excuse for handcuffing him to the table. Colleen is one of the ‘good guys,’ and her fans wouldn’t hear of it. It’s just a precautionary measure, in case things get out of hand.” I assure her. She scrunches her nose distastefully, and assumes a watchful position at the window.

“Terra, you don’t have to be too watchful yet. We’re safe here.”

“That’s what father always says about the palace.” She retorts without glancing at me. It’s moments like this that make my heart ache. They’re like the carriage horses from Central Park… they get so used to the tiny stalls of New York’s inner city stables, too small for them to move, that when they’ve finally been retired in a big pasture somewhere, they just stand there listlessly… as though they’re still trapped.  I sigh deeply, and close my eyes a moment to mentally prepare for the interview.

“That her?” Territa interrupts. I stand and glance out the window. Colleen glides through the ashes, her crystal eyes already casting sparks into the afternoon air, her black braid flicking back and forth like an angry cat’s tail.

“Yep, that’s her alright.” I groan inwardly. Oh boy. Here we go. I sit down on the couch again as Territa walks to the door.

“Who are you?” Colleen fairly screeches when the door opens. I jump up quickly, brushing a loose strand of hair back behind my ear nervously.

“Colleen! This is Territa. Don’t worry, she’s just here as a… precautionary measure.” I mumble the last part, looking away from her eyes that flicker like white-hot flames. Judas wasn’t kidding. They do burn.

“That bad, huh? What have you got up your sleeve this time, Hannah?” She hisses. I blink calmly and take a seat, motioning for her to join me. She huffs and stomps a foot, firmly rooted where she stands.

“I’m sorry Colleen, but they asked for it. It wasn’t my idea, and none of these questions are mine. Please, don’t shoot the messen…” I stop, groaning at my poor choice of words and wincing at her harsh glare. She throws herself down on the cushions across from me, resembling a coiled rattler with her legs crossed and shoulders hunched.

“Let’s just get this over with. Who is this chick, anyways?” She asks abruptly, jutting her chin out towards Territa. Territa glances at her irritably, but keeps silent.

“She’s the main character of one of my newer stories. A… bodyguard of sorts.” I frantically search for some way to explain her, and she rolls her eyes at my pitiful job.

“But, stop trying to change the subject. We’re not here for Terra. We’re here for you. Now, as I’ve told the others subjected to interviews, your words will only be shared with the readers. No characters will be allowed to see them. Everything will remain safe and confidential in your world. I will try to make this as quick and painless as possible, but in return, I expect you to at least attempt to rein in your anger. If a question needs clarification, I may ask a related question to draw you out, but will – to the best of my ability – refrain from forcing you to speak on the more emotional issues. If at any time you feel uncomfortable answering a question, you may ask to decline an answer. However, I may have to refuse your request. Our actions and conversation will be transcribed and sent to your fans, readers, and supporters in my world. Are you still willing to move forward with the interview?” She glares at me, but nods. She travelled all the way here from her world. She might not like it, but she’s not a quitter. Especially when she’s put effort into it already.

“Wonderful. The great majority of our questions came from Emily Bradburn and Emily Kaufman. However, Amanda Bradburn and Elizabeth Dresdow were kind enough to supply a good number as well. The plan is straightforward… I will work through each person’s questions, then move on to the next group. However, if there comes a time that one person’s questions are overwhelming, I may take a break and change to another’s before finishing. Sound good?” She nods again, a disinterested scowl resting upon her face. This was such a bad idea. Emily Kaufman, the world knows who to blame if I come up missing after this.

“Good. We’ll start with Emily Bradburn’s questions. Do you like coffee, or tea?” I relax a bit at the simple first question, grateful for the gentle lead in.

“Well, I used to like coffee with a hint of chocolate… but lately I’ve leaned more towards tea. Not that we get much of a chance at either, where I’m from.” She looks at me pointedly, and I feel a bit of guilt. That wasn’t quite as meaningless as I’d imagined it to be.

“Okay… Are you a puppy lover?” She shifts in her seat, confused by the easy questions and most likely worried that I’m attempting to lull her into a false sense of security.

“I suppose so… I mean, I’m not going to turn my nose up at a fluffy little face. But they’re of very little use to anyone, and can become weaknesses through your attachment. So no, I wouldn’t want one myself.” I nod, writing down her response.

“Why did you join the rebels?” I ease into the question, hoping to get through it without another smoldering glance. Too late.

“The short and skinny of it is I did it to protect my brother. But I suppose I’m more in line with their beliefs than any other way of thinking.” She quips, her voice breaking at the mention of Mason. This doesn’t bode well.

“This one isn’t extremely pleasant, Colleen.” I whisper, passing her a bit of paper with my warning of spoilers on it. She looks at me after reading it, the flames from the fireplace reflecting from her pupils as they narrow at me. “Why don’t you like Jesse?”

“Why would you even tell them that?” She explodes, leaping from the cushion with her fists clenched in rage. I jump up, ready to dodge her attack, when Territa leaps forward, seeming to tower above both of us as she stares Colleen down.

“Okay you two, calm down. Colleen, sit. Territa, it’s fine.” I snap at them, hoping to avoid a showdown. At least now I know Territa will do her job. Their eyes remain locked as they begrudgingly follow my orders. Finally, Colleen turns her attention back to me, and I’m left wondering if that’s a good thing.

“Let’s just say he’s wounded me in a way that can never fully heal. He made his choice that day. He pulled the trigger. He didn’t leave even a chance. I’ll never forgive him.” Her voice softens to a trembling whisper. I nod slowly, quickly averting my eyes as a tear trickles from her eye. I give her a moment to pull herself together before voicing the next one. As I wait, I check the next question and wince.

“Alright, we’ll have to move on Colleen. Do you have a secret crush?” She looks up at me again, hatred seething from her like a gale-force wind.

“There’s Jimmy of course, but I wouldn’t call that a crush. He latched on to me, and I suppose he’s grown on me. There… was another… but this isn’t the time, nor the place. And he’s long gone anyways.” A hint of remorse blends subtly with the anger in her voice, and I nod approvingly.

“I agree. We wouldn’t want to spoil anything from the second book anyways. Do you have any other siblings? Besides Mason, of course.” She rolls her eyes, gathers herself, and answers.

“No. Mason is all I have.” She puts emphasis on the last word, narrowing her eyes and nearly spitting it at me. I wince, hastily flipping the page of my notepad and scanning for the next question.

“This one’s easier, Colleen. And one I’m interested to know as well. What is your middle name?” She snorts sarcastically, and I glance up, startled.

“Easier, eh? Well, actually, Colleen is my middle name. I started going by it when I was very young, maybe six or seven. When I was born, my dad insisted that I take my mother’s name, Selah. After her passing, it was too painful and traumatic for me and my remaining family to hear, so I started going by Colleen instead.” My heart squeezes, and I’m left wondering how I didn’t know this story.

“I… I’m sorry, Colleen. I didn’t know.” She nods, surprisingly gentle in her response. I don’t question it, knowing that pushing my luck is a very bad idea. Territa still stands guard, but her shoulders droop a bit, and the overall mood of the room becomes very somber and heavy.

“I really wish I could soften these questions, Colleen. Emily wants to know if there is anything you’ve done that you regret, and wish you could go back and change?” I speak softly, as if that would soften the blow. She looks physically stricken for a moment, then pulls her knees up to her chest, hugging her arms around them. Ouch.

“So… so many things. So many ghosts, always knocking around the dark recesses of my mind. But those two… they haunt me. Constantly. Hardly a moment passes that I don’t wish to take it back, take all of it back. Every scar… every flicker… every second of it. I have much to regret. Much more than people would give me credit for.” She whispers, leaving only her eyes to be seen above her knees, the knuckles holding them white as the ashes outside. I reach a timid hand out to her, resting it on one of her knees with a sad smile, tears burning in my eyes.

“I’m sorry, Colleen.” I breathe. Behind us, I swear, I hear Territa sniffle.

“Hannah, would you tell your friend something for me?” Colleen asks, her voice muffled by her pants. I withdraw a bit, confused and more than a little worried.

“Uhm… okay?”

“Would you tell her that I appreciate her interest, but that she really sucks at asking questions?” I nod, a laugh trying to creep up on me. My lip twitches, but I refuse to let it out. Bad timing, Hannah. Bad timing. Stop it. Right now.

“I certainly will, Colleen. But I think you’ll have fun with this next one, actually. At least, I don’t think it would be possible for it to go south… What is your happiest moment?” I ask, hoping to finally brighten the melancholy rut we’ve found ourselves jammed in. She stretches out again, slowly letting her knees down and mulling the question over.

“I… I don’t know. That’s actually a really difficult question. But I suppose… the first thing that comes to mind is back… oh, it had to be four or five years ago now. When Dad was still with us. I don’t know how he managed it, but somehow he scrounged up the money to buy Mason a little cake to celebrate his birthday. I think he was turning eleven, or maybe twelve. When I was really little, my mom had made us cake once or twice. But Mason had never had any. So my Dad left before we woke up, and came home real late that night. The sun had been down for hours already, and he looked so tired. But then he pulled out this beautiful cake, with icing and everything. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. I could hardly bare to help dad cut it into three pieces. We gave Mason the biggest slice of course, and the look of pure joy on his face… it was just wonderful. After we’d savored every last crumb of that little cake, Dad stayed up through the night telling us stories. All kinds of stories. I’d never seen Mason so happy, and Dad might have been tired but I don’t think I’d ever seen him smile like that. It might not have been much, but it was the best celebration we ever had.” She finishes. And somehow, the melancholy air still hangs around here.

“Is this Emily character about out of questions?” She finally asks, her temper raising. Uh oh.

“Ah… Well… not exactly. But most of the rest aren’t as bad. I hope.” She tenses, and I brace myself. But with Territa’s small step forward, Colleen leans back, huffing out a breath and crossing her arms.

“Okay. Do you have a special talent?” She quirks an eyebrow, and I can feel her confusion at the strange questions of a writer growing. She has no idea…

“Are we talking secret talent, or just something I do better than most?” She asks.

“Both, I suppose. She didn’t specify.” She rolls her eyes, but I know where she’s going with it. Finally, something that can’t bite me back.

“Well, everyone knows I’m good with knives. I don’t toss them around very often, but when I get the time, or it comes down to hand-to-hand combat, I’m fairly lethal. As for something more secretive… I play the violin. I rarely ever do it anymore, but back in the day, I used to play while the others danced around. I love it. It makes me feel closer to my parents somehow.” She replies, and for once the mention of her parents doesn’t cause a grimace. This is progress.

“I love when you play, Colleen. Truly, I do. Now, what’s your favorite color?” I ask brightly, happy to keep up this string of questions as long as possible.

“This… this is still Emily we’re talking about, right? Not some imposter? Someone marauding around as that devilish beast? Or has the beast finally run out of venom?” Colleen asks sarcastically, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“I’m somewhat sure, Colleen… though I suppose it is possible…”

“No, no. It couldn’t be. No one could want to wear that name as a label… not possible.” She replies, and I laugh.

“I suppose my favorite color is blue. But not just any blue. I like that color of blue that reflects from a raven’s feather when the sun hits it just right. It only happens on those rainy days, when just a little burst of sunshine makes it through.” She sighs happily, and I smile.

“What about your favorite food?” I encourage, glad to see her acting like herself again. Maybe Emily didn’t break her quite yet.

“Food? It’s definitely not apples, I’ll tell you that much.” She snorts, and I laugh appreciatively at her dry humor.

“I don’t really have a favorite. I mean, beggars can’t be choosers you know. But I guess if I had to choose from my limited experience… I really like oranges. I only get one once in a blue moon, and they’re just so tangy and juicy and satisfying. And Mason and I, we used to carve things into the peels. Little scenes and things. It was one of our favorite things to do.” I smile, and she laughs at the memory. Judas was right again… her laugh does sound like a songbird’s. It just floats, drifting like waves of music in the air. Beautiful.

“That sounds like a lot of fun! This next question is very… interesting, to say the least. If trapped on a deserted island with no food or water, how would you get off?” I hope to keep the mood light and fun, but instead she stares at me with a fierce intensity.

“You aren’t just harvesting new story ideas, are you?” She raises her voice, standing again and looking down at me suspiciously. I shake my head vigorously, handing her the notebook so she can see.

“No! I would never! That’s like making you pick your own poison. I might have to do terrible things to you characters from time to time, but I would never be so cruel as to use your own confidential words against you. Look, you can see right here. It’s one of Emily’s questions, I promise.” I explain quickly.

“And why would she want to know? Is she a writer too? Is she gathering ideas for ways to torture her own poor characters?” She shouts, stepping closer. Territa snorts behind us, and I can sense her laughter.

“I don’t know, Colleen! She’s not usually as bad to her characters as I am, if it’s any consolation. Please, calm down. It’s just an interesting question is all. We want to know how you think.” She plops back down, grumbling inwardly.

“Well I guess I’d make some kind of signal, and hope for rescue. And you can get water just about anywhere. If it was an island, I’d make my camp on the beach. Build a fire. If you dig a hole deep enough, water will seep into it. I would heat some rocks in the fire, use them to evaporate the water, and lay my shirt over the top to soak up the steam. As for food, I could probably harvest something. But I’d have to hope for some kind of rescue. I have no skill in the water.” She concedes, speaking in a matter of fact tone and making it very clear that she never intends to be in such a ridiculous situation. “But, we all know I’d never get myself into such a predicament. Even if I were to leave Raven Falls for life at sea, I’d never allow myself to be that poorly prepared.”

“Well of course not, Colleen. You’re far too well organized. But, would you rather walk on the beach in the sun, or through the woods in the rain? I think I know the answer to this one.” I smile, and she gives me another strange look.

“Wait, so first she wants to know what I’d do on a deserted island, then she asks if I like the beach? What are you two planning?”

“Nothing, I swear!” She’s so paranoid. Granted, I made her that way, but still.

“Well. Either way, I’d always take the woods and rain. I like rain, it’s a great defense. It lends shadows and the disorientating effect of rain to your repertoire of defenses, covers the sound of breathing and footsteps. And in the woods, there’s always a place to hide. Besides… I’ve always felt like the woods were more alive than any sand covered beach.” I nod and smile.

“I agree entirely. And I think Territa would as well.” I turn and look at her, but she refuses to meet my eyes.

“Don’t you bring me into this. I’m not here for an interview, I’m here ‘as a precautionary measure’.” I laugh at her snippy tone, and she rolls her eyes.

“Alright Colleen, what is your preferred fighting style? We already talked a bit about it, but let’s put a heavier focus on it.” She nods, stretching her back and rolling her shoulders.

“Well, like I said, I’m very good with knives. When it comes down to it, I can protect myself with nothing but my pocketknife. But I prefer to outsmart my enemies. I’m a messenger, a scout. My specialty is evasion and observation. I can hold my own in battle, and they’d better watch out if I get caught. But I prefer to watch, and wait. I’m fast enough that I’m hardly more than a shadow to them.” Her voice is proud, and she beams haughtily. How Jimmy could ever surmount her pride is beyond me.

“Okay, what is your biggest secret?” I ask carefully, hoping to avoid an explosion.

“Does this Emily person realize that I’m not allowed to give out ‘spoilers’? What’s her problem anyways? She’s nosier than a hound dog when you’ve got a bit of jerky in your pocket!”

“Yes, believe me, I know. She does this to all the poor, unfortunate characters unlucky enough to be interviewed when she’s around. Just do your best to answer, Colleen, without giving anything away.” I reply, a bit upset with her myself. I would be nearly done by now, if not for her. And they call me the Dragon Kissed Fiend.

“Right. Tell my biggest secret without giving anything away. Simple. I did something I regret. I never should have done it, but I can’t get away from it now. It’s too late. And it feels like every day, the weight of it increases. I know it will come back to hurt me in the end… but… I’m trapped. The walls are closing in… the time is coming soon… and I’ll have to choose…” She starts out very sarcastically, but gradually goes into an almost trance-like state, as if talking to herself rather than me.

“You okay?” I ask when she’s fallen silent.

“Oh, I’m just dandy. Can’t you tell?” Her eyes turn into hateful slits, and my skin crawls. It’s almost like they’re glowing. She’s like Princess Azula before she went crazy. Fueled by hatred, a bit psycho, and able to set things on fire at will.

“Well, let’s get through the last few questions from Emily, and then we’ll take a short break. Agreed?” I venture. She nods, and I look back to my notes.

“What is your greatest fear? And for the sake of this question, let’s take your brother out of the equation.” That way we can keep it in the present. There will be plenty of questions about him later, and I don’t feel it necessary to make her talk about that more than is required. She rolls her eyes and takes a deep breath, clearly doing her best to keep her temper reined in.

“Well… I suppose my greatest fear is a cage. Being unable to defend myself. Being unable to run away, feel the fresh air, the life, the trees and living things around me in the woods. It seems to be the only thing I can feel anymore. Without that, I’m just… empty.” Her voice is wistful, and she glances longingly towards the window. Her raven black braid flops over one shoulder, her hair as straight as a rod.

“Rest assured, your time in the woods is not something I intend to take away, Colleen. We only have 5 more questions from Emily at the moment. I think there are a few more later on that run off of a few of Emily Kaufman’s questions, but we’ll worry about them when the time comes.” She lets out a sigh of relief, the tension leaving her shoulders for the first time since we began. “Next, she wants to know what your greatest weakness is.”

“Well, obviously, my love for Mason. But without him in the equation, my greatest weakness is my past. Or, I suppose, the ties I made in it. Certain bonds that can’t be broken. Bonds that could come back to hurt me in the end.” I nod understandingly, wincing at the thought.

“Alright, this next one is a bit interesting… If you had a chance to kill your greatest enemy while they were vulnerable and undefended, would you?” I contemplate looking her in the eye, afraid of what I may find there. She sits quietly for a moment, thinking, until I finally glance up at her. Her face is grim and dark, her eyes bearing the semblance of smoldering embers between the razor’s edge of flickering out and becoming a roaring flame.

“I would. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d killed, nor would it be the last. But… it’s the only way I can think of to free my soul.” Her voice is low, and my blood turns cold at the murderous look on her face.

“You know more than anyone how I hate to take a life, Hannah. That’s why I chose to be a scout. But it’s war. And I’d do anything to wipe my ledger clean.” She adds, attempting to calm me.

“I understand Colleen. I do. And trust me… that’s not nearly the darkest thing I’ve heard from a character. Now… this next one is a hard one too, Colleen. I apologize. Emily apparently has no idea how to lighten the mood between rough questions. Would you lay your life down for anyone but your brother?” I ask it quickly, letting the words slur together and wincing.

“Really? Really? Ugh! This woman… this… this… she… Devil.” Her fists clench, her face a hot shade of red.

“At this point, yes. I would. I have nothing to live for anymore. Nothing but dread to look forward to. And if I had the chance to lay my life down nobly for one of the men, I’d take it in a heartbeat.” She spits it through gritted teeth, and I look away, refusing to meet her glare.

“We’re almost there, Colleen. But the last two… they aren’t any more pleasant.” I grimace, knowing them to be the worst yet.

“Just get it over with!” She shouts, making me jump.

“Would you cast aside your responsibility to your brother if you could?” In a flash she’s on top of me, her bony knees pinning me back to the couch. Territa lunges for her, ripping her off of me with a force greater than anyone could expect from her compact body. Colleen hardly touches the ground before she’s on her feet again, attacking Territa with all the ferocity of a wounded gorilla. Territa easily evades her attacks, until she uses her metal prosthetic arm to block a blow. A sickening crunch resonates through the house as Colleen lets out a yelp, dropping to her knees. She cradles her right hand to her chest, and I gasp.

“Colleen!” I jump over to her, worry filling my mouth with cotton and making me feel sick to my stomach. She looks at me with hatred in her eyes, tears of pain streaking down her cheeks. Territa steps back, standing awkwardly, unsure of herself for once in her life.

“Get away from me!” She spurts between sobs.

“Colleen, please. Calm down. I’m sorry.” I begin to cry with her, knowing that the physical pain isn’t what’s brought this on. I’m sorry. So, so sorry. My hand rests gently on her shoulder, and we kneel on the floor for a long time together. Territa walks to the window, made uncomfortable by the sight of us.

“I would never… never give up… that blessing.” She chokes out in response to my question.

“I know, Colleen. I know. I’m so sorry. Really. Truly, I am. Let’s just get this last question out of the way, and then we’ll take a look at your hand. Okay?” I ask tenderly, wiping the tears from my cheeks. She nods numbly, staring deadly at the floor.

“What… what would it take to break your heart and spirit?” I whisper, the words falling from my mouth like shards of broken glass. She looks up at me, her eyes once more lit… but this time with the glazed, half flame of one defeated long ago.

“You already have.”

Ask All the Questions

Posted: January 11, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

Yesterday on Facebook, I offered the chance to select a character to interview here on the Breaking Shadows Project. The response was swift and unanimous. And so, after questions have been collected and a location has been selected, I will be interviewing Ms. Colleen Smart. But that’s not all.

You can ask her anything you want. Anything at all, be it funny, serious, deep, heart wrenching… whatever you wish! Leave your questions below. You may ask as many as you wish. Any questions that come in before the interview is posted here will be answered. If you need more information about Colleen, click on her picture under the “Meet the Clan” tab above.

Be creative. Be spontaneous. Have fun. And most importantly… Ask all the questions! 

For Elizabeth D: Jesse’s a Girl

Posted: January 9, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

For our next request, Elizabeth D. has asked for more Jesse. Not Jessie’s Girl, mind you, but Jesse the girl. I bequeath to you a new pic, and a lovely little ditty of a quote. This one comes from her childhood, with her best friend Charlie.

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His head rests in the crook of my neck, and I set my chin on his hair, closing my eyes to breathe in his scent. Dirt and gunpowder. Natural, playful, and a little bit serious. Just like us. I try not to smile at my next thought, knowing he’ll feel it. I force my breathing to remain steady, cuddling with him for just a second longer because the moment is so perfect. When I can feel he’s completely off guard, I attack.

I pounce on him, tickling his unprotected sides. He squirms and laughs and gasps for air, begging me to stop, but I only laugh haughtily and increase my tickling.

“Admit it! Say rain is pretty! Say it!” I threaten without letting up.

His body, just slightly smaller than mine, writhes helplessly beneath me until he finally gasps, “Alright, alright! Rain is pretty!” I release him to catch his breath, clutching my abdomen and laughing harder than ever. His face glows red from laughter and embarrassment, and we both pant for air. I ruffle his chestnut hair caringly and he smiles. We may not be siblings by blood, but no one can tell me he’s not my little brother.

At last he gathers himself, and I siddle back against the rocky wall of our little cove. He crawls over and collapses next to me, leaning on my shoulder again and watching the rain with me once more. The sky lights up behind our water curtain, and thunder crashes in the air around, shaking the ground beneath us. Charlie gasps, and my smile grows wider. Together, we watch the stormy battle of light and dark, clouds and lightning, thunder and silence outside, transfixed by the wonder of it all.

“You know Jesse… I guess it is kind of pretty in it’s own way.” He whispers. I nod slowly.

“My mom used to tell us that rainstorms were heavenly parades. She told us that the rain was confetti, the lightning was fireworks, and the thunder was music. That each on its own was beautiful, but all together they were God’s magnificence on full display. And the wind, she said, the soft and gentle wind, was God’s own voice, His very whisper coming down from heaven to comfort His children.” I say, a tear in my eye. He grabs my hand gently and plays with my fingers, knowing that saying anything would be pointless.

-Breaking Shadows: Bold

For Emily B and Elizabeth: Hey Jude

Posted: January 9, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

And with this post, I catch up with our list of requests. Once again, if there is anything you’d like to see, comment below! I’ll make it happen, if it’s at all possible! Emily B. initially requested this, and Elizabeth repeated it. What is it they want? Jude and Judas excerpts! I have a few of my personal favorites below, from both Bold and Fractured. Those from Bold are written from Jesse’s perspective, while those from Fractured are written from his.

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“Alright, alright. But just this one!” He says, poking my nose and pretending to be stern. I curl into his chest, breathing in his scent and waiting for him to start. He always smells like gunpowder and campfire. It reminds me of my dad. Not all strong, but not all sweet.
He clears his throat, and squeezes my shoulders before starting.
Something tells me that this poem is going to be different. I don’t know how, but I can feel it. He never lets me down, and I sense his own excitement about it. This is going to be good.

“I’ve worn a thousand faces,
Used a hundred names,
Built myself a fortress
Of solitude and shame.

No one knows or sees me
For what I really am,
And in a way, I guess,
That’s what I always planned.

In all the years of strife and trial
I’ve always been alone,
And the story kept inside my heart
No one has ever known.

The pain behind these hazel eyes
Is hid beneath my rough disguise,
But if another heart I find lonely to be,
Together may our souls entwine-bound yet forever free.”

I look at him, stunned to silence. Beautiful just isn’t an elegant enough word to describe it. I feel like these words had to have come from my own heart. But they’re so wonderful, so perfectI never could have written anything like it. It’s so brilliant, so emotion filled, so… real. Jude rolls onto his side, and I slowly do the same, the words still echoing in my ears.

Breaking Shadows: Bold

I let loose the laugh I’ve held in as I turn to the men waiting behind me, all of whom join in. One by one they walk away, many giving me high-fives as they pass, until the only one left behind is Jude. He stands there, staring at me with a strange expression on his face.

“What?” I ask, giving in to my curiosity.

“You are one crazy leader.” I roll my eyes and begin to shoulder past him, but he gently grabs my arm.

“And maybe that’s why I love you so much.” He whispers. For a moment, I feel like he’s going to kiss me again, right here on the firing range. But then he lets go, turns, and walks away quietly.

Breaking Shadows: Bold

When everyone is gone, Jude steps in close to me, his big, wide brimmed hat shielding my face from the rain.
“Jess… Did I do something? Say something? Did I just imagine it all?” He whispers, his voice cracking midway through.
I throw my arms around him, tears falling, mixing with the rain. His arms encircle me, and I close my eyes, enjoying the warmth of his embrace.

-Breaking Shadows: Bold

Bang! I wake with a start. It’s so dark, I can hardly see my hands as they come up to rub my eyes.

“Mo-” A hand covers my mouth, cutting off my call for Momma. My eyes fly open wide, body instantly awake. I jump up, fear sending a prickly sensation up and down my arms, but something wraps around my stomach, jerking me back into a sitting position.

“Shh! Judas, be still. They’ll hear you.” My mother hisses silently in my ear. She tries to keep her voice strong and steady, but I hear the trembling undercurrent of alarm it carries. My blood turns to ice, my body stiffening. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see that we’re in the living room. I’m still on her lap, where I fell asleep. But the door is barred, the dresser leaning against it, and the curtains are drawn. The house sits pitch black and deathly silent, as though abandoned. Past the pounding of my heart in my ears, I hear shouts and gunshots outside, an ungodly ruckus unlike anything I’ve ever heard. What’s going on? Why is everyone yelling? Is there a parade? Why is Momma scared?

-Breaking Shadows: Fractured

The door is wooden, with a light polish that gives it a warm gleam. It’s worn from years of use, and as familiar as that to my own home. I run my hand across it lightly before entering, relishing the feel of the smooth grain. I have to strain to get it open, with the wind pressing against it, but at last it gives in. The five little bells jangle along with it, announcing my presence.

An elderly man in the corner looks up from his fresh cup of coffee and his newspaper, surprising me a bit. No one’s ever here this early. She couldn’t have opened more than five minutes ago. But then, I haven’t been here in a while. Jenny appears behind the counter, retying her crisp, white apron behind her back. Her frizzy red hair sticks out every which-a-way at the crown of her head disobediently, as usual. She never can tame it. I smile a bit and step further in, stomping the snow off my boots before fully entering.

She glances up, her lightly wrinkled and heavily freckled face just as warm and pleasant as usual. When she catches sight of me, her lips break out into a giant smile, bright enough to cause the sun itself shame. She’s a little older than my mom was, but looks very young and springy. She always has a smile, but this one she saves just for me.

“Jude! Oh, my dear, it’s been so very long!” She sweeps gracefully around the counter, and nearly skips towards me. We embrace each other, and as she pulls away she laces her fingers between mine, looking me up and down with a glimmer in her eye.

“It’s so wonderful to see you! I was worried when you didn’t come visit. How is the…” She cuts off suddenly, glancing at the man reading his newspaper, then clears her throat. “How’s life treating you?” She smiles again, and I understand. She’s always bringing in strays. Not that I can blame her for it. After all, it is how we met. But you can never be sure where their allegiance lies.

“Ginger! Oh, I’ve just been so busy with everything, I haven’t had the chance to come down this way. But I’m doing well! How are you? And the shop? Nothing’s really changed, has it?” I know my eyes must be shimmering, and my smile threatens to hurt my face. It’s been so long since I’ve felt this at home. I need to come here more often.

-Breaking Shadows: Fractured

I stand a moment, filled with remorse for the situation. The one that I caused. But it wasn’t me. A slosh halts my thoughts, and I’m instantly on guard. I glance up and find two eyes glaring at me through the snow. Eyes unlike any I’ve ever seen… they seem to be not one color, but all of them, reflected through nearly crystalline irises – like a rainbow through a prism. They hold fear and curiosity in them, and a deep distrust. But beyond that, there’s a hurt so profound, it makes my heart ache.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” I whisper.

“I know.” A young, clear, female voice cuts through the ice and snow, but falls on my ears like dead leaves from trees. She steps closer, the rest of her coming into view. She’s short, but older than I would have thought. Come to think of it, so is the boy. Up close, he looks more like a starved young father. She sniffles, and I know it’s not from the cold. I watch as she bends down, kissing his forehead one last time and running her fingers through his hair.

-Breaking Shadows: Fractured

Her babble continues as she works her way carefully down, changing the bandages on all of my wounds, cleaning where she can, checking the stitches in the worst of them. She tells me about her family, her one sister and her parents. She talks about the books she likes to read, and the way she managed to get such a wonderful job, even though she came from such a poor family. I smile and nod from time to time, cautiously allowing myself to listen and enjoy.

It keeps my mind off of other things, allowing me to actually relax for the first time since I arrived here. Her voice is enchanting, and the kindness draws me in. I can’t help but wonder at the way her voice drops subtly into a whisper when she works on a more tender wound, the focus contorting her face just slightly. The hesitations between words lengthen just a bit, and her eyebrows draw together, her bright eyes taking on a somber glint.

The way she flitters around the bed, tending my every need, reminds me of a mother bird fluttering about, caring for her young. I haven’t been treated with this kind of gentle, caring kindness since… a cloud descends upon me, and I stare at the ceiling. I must bear a pained expression, because when she glances at my face, she stops talking. I can’t stop a tear from leaking out the side of my eye, and she’s instantly at my side, wiping it away with a soft cloth, and watching me worriedly.

“Judas, are you alright? Does it hurt?” She asks, glancing over me again. I shake my head just a bit, and quietly curse myself for worrying her.

-Breaking Shadows: Fractured